Tony Goldwyn Discusses Scandal's Heartbreaking Twist: 'I Literally Couldn't Speak the Words'
If you think it’s hard watching Scandal‘s Olivia Pope get the hook, try being the guy breaking the fierce fixer’s heart.
When last we tuned into the sophomore ABC drama, President Fitzgerald Grant (played by Tony Goldwyn) was dealt two blows – first with the discovery that his road to the White House took a very sketchy detour. But in tandem with that, he realized that the love of his life was among the election-rigging scheme team.
Oh, and also during that very bad day he ushered a frail Supreme Court Justice to her death, to boot.
TVLine spoke with POTUS’ portrayer about his first (and difficult) reading of that dynamics-changing script, the “devastating” actions of she whom Fitz had put on “the highest pedestal,” and the Season 2 scene that has surprised him the most.
TVLINE | We’re coming off quite an episode. What do you think raced through Fitz’s head when Verna revealed to him the truth about the election rigging?
It was, I think, a three-part reaction. Maybe four parts. First, it was complete shock at what she was saying to him, because at first he thought she was in her delirium. When he does realize what she’s saying, the realization that Olivia was involved is absolutely crushing for him because, you know… he “gets” Mellie. And he’s not terribly shocked that Cyrus is an opportunist, even though he’s deeply hurt and disappointed. But Olivia is someone who Fitz had put on a pedestal — the highest pedestal, really. She is someone he came to rely on as a reflection of the best part of himself or the man that he aspired to be, which was the antithesis of his father. So her having betrayed him in that way invalidates everything for him and confirms his worst fears, in a sense, about himself. If she is corrupt, then everything loses all meaning. And that’s absolutely devastating.
TVLINE | And the way Verna drove the dagger in a bit further, with the comment about his father….
When Verna says, “I owed it to your father” to tell you the truth… That’s a moment where he, for me, was first saying, “[My father] wins. He was right about me,” and I think the bottom falls out of his life. And when I walk to the [hospital room] door, in that moment I think he has the opposite reaction. He sort of feels, “I’m not going to let [my father] win. He’s not going to beat me. I made a commitment to be something, to do this job right. And this was not my decision to steal [the election].” I think he believes he could have won it, maybe, and he’s not going to let Verna, this sort of surrogate for his father, take him down — so he makes this insane decision to kill her.
TVLINE | Actors, of course, can be very protective of their characters. What was your reaction when you heard for the first time that Fitz would end Verna’s life?
We got this script very late; I don’t think any of us got it before the table read. So when we sat down to read it out loud together and I got to the scene that precedes that — at Verna’s funeral, when Olivia comes up to me and says, “I will wait for you Fitz. I’ll wait as long as you need,” and I turn to her and say, “Oh yeah, about that; I changed my mind” — I was completely shocked. I literally couldn’t speak the words. I couldn’t figure out where that came from because [it preceded the flashback to Verna's reveal]. As far as I knew, the last time I spoke to Liv, I said, “Wait for me,” and suddenly coming out of my mouth are these words that are the antithesis of what I’ve felt. I somehow forced the words out and [series creator] Shonda [Rhimes] looked at me and mouthed, “It’s going to be OK, don’t worry.” And then the scene came up, the scene with Verna that followed, and I realized, “Oh my God, I’m going to kill her.” I was shocked by that, but I was less shocked than I was by my reversal with Liv. I couldn’t process that. I had, like, a literal and physical reaction.
TVLINE | I wanted to ask about that funeral scene. Up until then, every scene between you and Kerry Washington was either simmering or boiling over. Was it kind of odd for you two to do your first scene where it was just ice cold?
Because I didn’t understand what was informing it, reading it was really bizarre. But actually doing it wasn’t so hard for me because I had the context of how much her betrayal meant to me. Kerry would have a very different perspective on this, but for me, at that moment, Fitz feels that’s he’s been completely used by her, that everything he attributed to her was phony and she was no different from the rest of them and all of her protestations of loving him and blaming him and being a victim of him, and the Sally Hemmings business, was all bulls–t. That she really wanted him president because she wanted to trade on that power. I suddenly saw her as the worst kind of political opportunist who, sure, in one sense, can say she was in love with me, but she wasn’t in love with me. She was using me. Remember that scene where we touch the Constitution and I say, “It’s everything” and she says, “It’s everything. It’s a new world”? To connect in terms of our political ideals was so profound for him, and to have that betrayed was the worst thing that could possibly happen.